Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
An efficient and low-emission public transport system forms a key part of this Government's vision for sustainable mobility. As public transport is responsible for less than 5% of our transport emissions, in absolute terms, converting public transport fleets to low-carbon alternatives will have a limited impact on national emission reductions. However, greening the public fleet does fulfil a strong leadership and demonstration role as we shift towards a low-carbon economy. To this end, I am committed to continuing to green the public transport fleet and to making each public transport journey less carbon-intensive. A comprehensive programme of work is already under way, with a strong focus on the pathway to zero emitting vehicles.
The national bus fleet, which carries the majority of public transport passengers, is already moving to lower emission alternatives. During 2020, a total of 280 diesel-electric plug-in hybrid buses were ordered. A number of these vehicles were delivered during December and will enter service over the coming weeks. A total of 100 such vehicles should be operational by May this year, with the remaining 180 vehicles to be delivered during quarters 3 and 4 of this year.
The NTA is tendering for the supply of single-deck, fully electric buses, the first of which will be introduced into town fleets this year. In addition, further such vehicles will be assigned to other urban routes that are capable of being operated with single-deck buses. In respect of the double-deck fleet, the number of manufacturers of right-hand drive double-deck buses is very limited, which has impacted the development of such vehicles. The NTA is satisfied, however, that the available product is now mature enough, and capable of a sufficient range, to allow the purchase of double-deck fully electric fleet for some urban routes. Accordingly, a tender process has commenced for the purchase of double-deck, fully electric buses, with the first order expected to be placed later this year and the first vehicles under that order arriving towards the end of next year.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In terms of heavy rail, we are expanding electrification through the DART+ programme, which will ultimately mean about 70% of journeys in any given year on the rail network will be on electrified services. In the interim, we are continuing to expand rail capacity through the ongoing construction of the national train control centre and the manufacture of 41 additional carriages for the greater Dublin area commuter rail fleet. I intend to commission a review of the rail network that will consider the potential for high or higher-speed rail, including the potential electrification of the interurban network. As regards our light rail network, we have been expanding the capacity of the Luas green line with the ongoing arrival of 26 tram extensions and eight additional trams, all of which I expect will have entered service by quarter 2 of this year. We will also look at route options for Luas Cork, Luas Lucan and the preliminary design for Luas Finglas. This year, I intend to seek Government approval for MetroLink, a new largely underground electrified metro service in Dublin that is probably the largest public investment project in the history of the State.
Furthermore, in the most recent budget, I was delighted to announce an electric vehicle scrappage scheme to enhance the supports available for taxi and hackney drivers switching to electric vehicles. I hope to see a steady greening of our small public service vehicle fleet over the coming years.
Collectively, these measures will see us progressively modernise and lower the emission profile of our public transport fleets, as well as creating an attractive alternative to the private car. As the Deputy is aware, I am fully committed to a shift to public transport and active travel as a means of reducing transport emissions. There have been some great additions to active travel infrastructure and our public realm in recent months, as local authorities have put in place emergency measures to support local communities and businesses through our current difficulties. We want to build on these types of initiatives and support them through our commitment of €1.8 billion over the lifetime of the Government for active travel. This level of investment, along with our significant investment in greening public transport, will help improve quality of life and reduce the quantity of emissions and air pollutants from the transport sector.